Experts: Safety Feature Is Being Cut To Comply With Fuel Economy Demands

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A spare tire is something most of us don’t think about – until we need it.

But as CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported Tuesday, the safety feature, which has always been standard in new cars and rentals, is often now missing.

The dreaded flat tire happens to just about everyone sometime or another. When it happened to Joan Freeman, she called for help instead of changing the tire herself.

But when the mechanic looked in the trunk, there was no spare tire –- not even a “doughnut,” the temporary tire.

“He said, ‘There’s no doughnut,’” Freeman said, “I said, ‘What do you mean there’s no doughnut?’”

Freeman’s husband, Mitch, said in place of the spare was a repair kit designed to seal small leaks, which he said was useless given the damage to his wife’s tire.

“We had to order a flatbed,” she said. “It was a fiasco. It really was a fiasco.”

And it’s an increasing trend, said Robert Sinclair of AAA New York.

“As an emergency road service organization, we’ve seen this quite a bit,” Sinclair said.

Not so long ago, nearly every car came with a full-size spare tire, according to Sinclair. But in recent years, fuel economy requirements have prompted automakers to start offering smaller, temporary spares, and in some vehicles, no spares at all.

“As vehicle manufacturers are faced with the need to get better mileage from their vehicles as a result of government mandates, they try and do things, anything and everything they can, in order to meet these mandates,” Sinclair said.

Even Sinclair, himself, said he was surprised to discover that a car he was test-driving also did not come with a spare.

“I’d have to go through the trouble of getting it to a shop and having it towed,” he said.

Safety expert Sean Kane said failure to include the spare tire is a problem.

“It’s just another profit building for them, at your expense,” he said.

And Kane said he is worried. He said a car with no spare is a safety hazard.

“If you are stuck at night, there’s nobody available to replace a tire, you are going to get a tow, then what are you going to do? Where are you going to go?” Kane said.

The Freemans were outraged that the dealership never told them the car didn’t come with a spare.

“I never, ever would have bought that car without a doughnut,” Joan Freeman said.

“This is just unsafe, and people don’t know about it,” Mitch Freeman said.

Safety experts said they want manufacturers and dealers to make sure consumers are better informed.

“There needs to be ample disclosure, so you are not learning this on the side of the road,” Kane said.

Some car models do have a “no spare” disclosure on the inside door panel, but the best way to know for sure is to check with your dealership or rental company before hitting the road.

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